Sankara Nethralaya unveils tele-ophthalmology project

CHENNAI SEPT. 6. The Sankara Nethralaya eye hospital, celebrating its silver jubilee anniversary today, unveiled some cutting-edge treatments and projects it has taken up — from tele-ophthalmology to identifying genes responsible for glaucoma in Indians.

The first of these was the Brachytherapy, for cancers that occur within the eye. It will be used chiefly to treat retinoblastoma (childhood tumours) and melanoma (adult tumours). The procedure will selectively target the tumour and avoid unnecessary radiation of normal tissues, thus minimising damage to the eye, doctors said.

Radioisotopes for the therapy had to be imported till now, and so the procedure was expensive. The hospital now has a tie-up with the Board of Radiation Isotope Technology of the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre to indigenously manufacture the radioisotope.

Another technique the hospital has adopted is Osteo-Odonto Keratoprosthesis, in which the tooth of a patient is removed to create an optical cylinder, which will be fixed in the damaged central corneal tissue.

The hospital will also conduct an epidemiological study on the genetic pattern of glaucoma in urban and rural settings. The disease, which affects the optic nerve and can be hereditary, is often diagnosed late. To overcome this, the study will attempt to collect data to identify from blood samples people who are at risk of developing the disease.

Another effort is the Diabetic Retinopathy Project, which will attempt to create awareness of the disease and develop a screening model, and to evolve interventional strategies to prevent complications from it.

The hospital chairman, S.S. Badrinath, said a mobile tele-ophthalmology project had also been launched, which would allow specialists in the hospital to diagnose complications using images sent from remote locations.

Actor Yee.Gee.Mahendra announced that he would stage a fund-raising show of two of his plays in San Jose, California, in support of the Sankara Nethralaya, during his tour of the United States in October-November.

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